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Get your novice team to Nationals
By Claire King

A common mistake made by novice skydivers is the assumption that SA National Championships is a competition reserved for the best skydivers in the country.  Quite to the contrary, in fact, while Nationals is the selection competition for representation at the World Meet for many of the discipline and events, it also includes events for the whole range of experience levels and abilities.

There are many events aimed at either fun competition or introductions to competition.  The 4way Novice event is loads of fun and a great way to discover 4way and competition.  With a reduced number of rounds (6) and a simplified dive pool and draw (randoms only and 3 points per round), this event is accessible to jumpers with even the most basic formation experience and limited training funds.

Pick your Team Mates:
So where to start? Well a good place to begin is to find 3 other people with similar goals, experience levels and training budget. It helps immensely to have the cultural fit so you all get along and enjoy each other’s company, but not all people need this from their team, so it depends on what you’re after.

Get a Senior:
If you can find a 4th member with some FS experience, you’re “A for Away”. The novice category allows for one senior skydiver in the team with the idea that he or she coaches and guides the novice jumpers. You don’t need a senior on your team, but it helps a lot to reduce frustration, debrief more accurately and shorten that learning curve. Since experience levels for competition in SA are decided by self-classification (you decide, honestly, if you think you are a novice, intermediate or experienced jumper in the discipline) an additional criteria is set that limits each team to no more than 1 member entering a higher category in the same meet. So if you have someone in your team entering an Intermediate or Open FS event, that is considered your senior and the rest of you may only enter the novice event.

Agree on a Budget
Ensure all 4 team members agree to a training budget and stick to it.  It is equally frustrating for a jumper who can afford and wants to do double the jumps as it is for the jumper who has blown his budget half way through the training period.

Agree on your Goals
Ensure everyone has compatible goals for the team and for Nationals.  The goals need not be identical but they must be compatible.  If one member is after a gold medal and the other wants a fun, no-pressure learning tool interrupted by heavy parties and solid hangovers, there is bound to be conflict.

Get Jumping
Depending on your nature, goals, budget and experience levels, the number of training jumps will vary greatly.  The good news is that with a few focussed jumps together, guided by a senior on your dropzone or in your team, you can still enter Nationals and have a great time. 

If you want to know more about what goes on in FS competition or are looking to build a team for Nationals, give your FS committee a shout.  Alternatively, every DZ is filled with friendly seniors who’d love to help you or even be a senior on your team if you need that.